Common pet allergies - BC SPCA
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Common pet allergies

April 16, 2021

Just like humans, your pet can suffer from allergies.

Pet allergies typically come in two forms – food allergies and environmental allergies, with the latter being more common. Because different types of pet allergies share similar symptoms, it’s best to seek advice from your veterinarian to determine what’s affecting your pet and the best treatment options.

Environmental allergies

Just like people, many pets do not react well to pollen and dust. In addition to inhaling allergens, pets often react to allergens through their skin or paws. Your pet’s immune system, which normally protects their body against infections and diseases, may see a specific environmental factor as a threat. The immune system reacts by releasing histamines, which can cause inflammation, swelling and itching.

Common environmental allergens for pets are:

  • Dust
  • Grass
  • Pollen
  • Weeds
  • Fungi
  • Mold

Symptoms to look for:

  • Biting or pulling out hair
  • Excessive licking
  • Sneezing
  • Inflamed skin
  • Swollen, sensitive paws
  • Repeated ear infections
  • Respiratory problems
  • Scratching
  • Scooting
  • Secondary skin infections
  • Hair loss
  • Itchy, runny eyes

Food allergies

Food allergies occur when your pet’s immune system misidentifies a specific ingredient as an “invader” – often with products that include proteins.

When this happens, your pet’s system creates antibodies to fight the ingredient it sees as dangerous, causing symptoms such as diarrhea, scratching, ear and skin infections, lesions on the body, hot spots and scabs.

Common food allergens are:

  • Beef
  • Wheat
  • Dairy
  • Eggs
  • Chicken
  • Lamb
  • Soy
  • Pork

Gastrointestinal symptoms can also be the result of:

  • Intolerance for certain foods
  • Food hypersensitivity
  • Percentage of fat in the food
  • Percentage of fibre in the food
  • The way their food is prepared

In addition to food allergies, in which a pet’s immune system “turns against” a certain ingredient, an animal can also develop a food sensitivity or intolerance, which is a gradual reaction that develops itself over time, causing a physical response that is different than a true allergic reaction.

If it turns out to be a food allergy, your veterinarian may suggest to put your pet on an elimination diet. This diet helps identify triggers to your pet’s reactions. If your pet is allergic to the ingredient that has been removed from their diet, they will likely start to show signs of improvement. If nothing changes over time it is most likely not a food allergy.

To determine whether your pet is suffering from a food or environmental allergy, it’s best to take your pet to your veterinarian for further testing.

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